To­mor­row’s en­ergy an­swers ex­plored at UCF com­pe­ti­tion

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Kevin Spear

If the fu­ture of en­ergy is about smart ways to make more or use less, suc­cess may emerge from fierce, high-level com­pe­ti­tion Thurs­day in Or­lando among stu­dents at UCF and from across the coun­try.

En­trants in the MegaWatt Ven­tures con­test, spon­sored by the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy and held at Or­lando’s power-plant cam­pus in east Or­ange County, ranged from Yale’s de­vel­op­ment of elec­tric propul­sion for heavy trucks to Van­der­bilt’s quest to har­ness nano-ma­te­rial for stor­ing en­ergy.

The Univer­sity of Iowa won the con­test and the $50,000 top prize, demon­strat­ing tech­nol­ogy for con­vert­ing wood waste to or­ganic fer­til­izer and pes­ti­cide. N.C. State took sec­ond place and $15,000 af­ter show­ing off an “in­no­va­tive hy­dro­gen elec­trol­y­sis process” for en­ergy stor­age. Van­der­bilt fin­ished third and won $10,000.

The de­vel­op­ment of ad­vanced stor­age of en­ergy — per­haps a su­per bat­tery — is widely seen as the gate­way to the fu­ture of clean en­ergy. In all, there were 10 com­peti­tors. Each got a 20-minute shot at daz­zling a team of judges from the Or­lando Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion and from so­lar power, util­ity power and ven­ture cap­i­tal.

The Univer­sity of Cen­tral Florida asked OUC to hold the com­pe­ti­tion at its Cur­tis Stan­ton En­ergy Cen­ter, which gen­er­ates power with coal, nat­u­ral gas, so­lar en­ergy and meth­ane extracted from the ad­join­ing Or­ange County land­fill.

“We thought it would be a good set­ting for, ‘Here’s what the power-gen­er­a­tion set­tling looks like to­day,’” said Wade Gilling­ham, an OUC vice pres­i­dent. “With this chal­lenge, this con­test ... we’ll see where some of the tech­nol­ogy leads us in the fu­ture.

UCF brought two teams, with both fo­cus­ing on cou­pling so­lar power and ways to store en­ergy — in­clud­ing with molten salt.

The Univer­sity of South Florida pre­sented a street-light sys­tem pow­ered by so­lar and wind, while a sec­ond USF team de­vel­oped a process for turn­ing the green­house gas car­bon diox­ide into fuel.

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